CHANGE IN DISPARATE IMPACT RULE WOULD JEOPARDIZE HOUSING SECURITY FOR MOST VULNERABLE CITIZENS

The Connecticut Fair Housing Center and other local fair housing groups throughout the nation have seen an increase in the number of people of color who have contacted the Center because they have been denied housing as the result of a criminal record.  This is not surprising since in Connecticut, African Americans are incarcerated at 9.4 times the rate of whites and Latinos are incarcerated at 3.9 times the rate of whites. African Americans comprise 41.6% of Connecticut’s prison population but only 9.7% of the total population.  Latinos comprise 26.2% of the prison population but only 14.7% of the overall population.[1]  As a result, people of color are denied housing more often than people who are white because of their criminal records.  The proliferation of tenant screening companies which gather data from many sources and provide them to landlords mean that more and more people with criminal records are being denied housing, not because they pose a threat to the safety of others today, but for behavior that in many cases is decades old.  A recent review of tenant selection policies in Fairfield County, Connecticut reveals that 78% of the units have rules that disqualify individuals with a criminal record.  Because of the disparity in conviction records in Connecticut and throughout the country, people of color are limited in their choice of where to live.

The disparate impact rule recognizes the inherent unfairness in limiting the housing choices for people of color based on a rule that sweeps too broadly.  One of the Center’s clients who is Latino was recently denied housing for an arrest for a misdemeanor that was eventually dismissed.  The client is now severely disabled and unable to move or act on his own, yet his criminal history prevented him from moving out of a nursing home and in with his mother for more than a year.  By using the disparate impact rule to challenge the use of criminal records, the Center has assisted this client, and many others, in obtaining housing that meets their needs without increasing the threat to the health or safety of other tenants. There is no need to weaken a regulation that is working to obtain housing for some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

[1] “State-by-State Data.” The Sentencing Project. Accessed Feb. 6, 2019. https://www.sentencingproject.org

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